I just saw (haha, who am I kidding, I still count days) that tomorrow will be 280 days sober. Holy crap, that’s really close to 300, which is impossibly close to 365 in March. And then–I just found out, and couldn’t be more thrilled–my brother’s getting married in May, so…there’s THAT to stay sober for. And, my 40th birthday (Jesus, wtf?) is in June, and by then…well, let’s just say, there’s never a good time to start drinking again than there is a MUCH BETTER reason not to. Damn it.
In reading Belle’s post the other day–and, in feeling a few tears prick to my eyes as I remembered the dark, horrible days of less than a few years ago–getting sober takes a lot of patience. Of waiting. Of repetitive action. Of training your mind to think a certain way, primarily, to stop thinking about drinking. And, most of the time before you get over the hump, it’s a big, fat pain in the ass.
I also remember being pretty well convinced–up until about September of this year, so that put me around 15 months from when I first started getting sober, and 7 months of continuous sobriety–that I would never truly enjoy anything again without wine. I couldn’t get jazzed about anything, whether it was eating dinner, watching a movie, going on a vacation, or work. Seriously, I lost a LOT of income getting sober; I just could not muster the motivation to work.
Now, we’re talking, months, years–it took me a long time to bounce back. BUT, you know what? It happened. Even for me–is 18 months an unusually long time for the pink clouds to move in? I’m not sure, but it did finally happen. And, it will happen for you, too. The amount of time it takes to regain your sense of motivation–an authentic desire to do things without being drunk, without the reward of being able to get drunk–is a drop in the bucket compared to the rest of your life, you know?
Remember: you only have to go through this healing shi–I mean, process–once, if you stay the course.
I feel free now. Yes, of course I have pangs. Yes, of course I think about moderation. But, for the most part, lately I’ve found myself asking, Why? I feel fine. Why start drinking again? I never drank to have fun in the end; I drank to feel better, to mask my depression and anxiety. I drank because I was afraid of starting things, afraid of failing at the thing I wanted most–to work in the creative field, to be able to freely express myself. I drank, ironically, because I wasn’t doing what I was meant to do, and the more I put it off, the more “stuck” I got, and the more I drank.
Now? I don’t need to drink. I don’t NEED to drink. Other folks may have drunk no matter how they were feeling. Sure, in the beginning, I drank to celebrate, but looking back, I was always searching, seeking, feeling empty and hole-ish. Now? I’ve addressed some of that shit–work, life, love, family. I have those things now, and I don’t need wine anymore to fill the hole(s). I have a different perspective, too, on holes, and on filling, and on waiting, and on life.
I also had two really instructive slips, or “attempts at moderation.” My slips were essential–abso-fucking-lutely essential–in getting me to fully commit to a longer period of abstinence. And, what I didn’t see coming changed my mind, in a way, about moderation: I drank a slight amount of alcohol and it made me feel bad. Really weird. It didn’t work–what a surprise! Soooo, no buzz anymore? Great. At least now I can stop wondering and move on.
It’s not exactly that simple, but you get the point. I still wonder about moderation, but I definitely don’t think about drinking–or not drinking–much at all anymore. My habit now is to not drink. Drinking seems like something from a bygone era, a habit I used to have but no longer do. It’s like, I got married and fell in love after the fact, you know? I’ve come to rely on–even enjoy–being sober!
I feel free. I made up a story about myself, something like, you’re always going to feel that pull, you’re never going to be free of the desire to drink. You’ll never have any fun again: you’ll never feel like going on vacation again, sober; you’ll never be able to pitch and write stories again, sober; you’ll never really, truly enjoy anything ever again, sober. Guess what, wolfie, you little piece of shit? You were wrong. Like a mirage, wolfie seems to be fading into nothing–a cloud of dust on the horizon.
Friends: hang in there, and enjoy your holidays. No matter what you think, or what you think you feel–no matter the stories you tell yourself about yourself–just keep not drinking. Stay sober, even if you have to force the fun, even if you don’t feel like forcing the fun. Even if you’re so fucking SICK of thinking about not drinking. IT WILL GET BETTER. Your story is SO much bigger than you know, than you can predict–a thousand times better and more amazing than you’re telling yourself it is, before it’s even happened. Take it from me, a non-believer turned holy-shit,-is-this-real-life?
I’m heading off for a few days on a real vacation–no computer, no phone! It’ll just be strolling, eating, beaching, and wow, maybe even reading a book! It’ll be sparkly, and there will be a few pangs, but in the end, this story–with all its real characters, a real plot, real things and people and places, real feelings–is way, WAY better than the one I was telling myself just a few months ago, let alone a few years ago, as I spent the holidays alone with my 14 bottles of wine and no memory to prove any of it ever happened (and, wishing that most of it actually didn’t).
Happy (sober, but sober is life and life is sober now, right?) Holidays to all.